TEHRAN -- President Ebrahim Raisi says Iran wants a powerful and strong Iraq and is determined to further improve relations with Baghdad.
Raisi told his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih here Thursday that every step leading to Iraq’s strength and preventing foreign interference would contribute to the Arab country’s progress.
“In line with maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity, security and stability, Iran has not hesitated to donate the blood of its dearest sons, such as Martyr Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani,” Raisi said.
U.S. terrorists assassinated General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Hashd al-Sha’abi, and their companions by targeting their vehicle outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.
The cowardly act of terror was carried out under the direction of former U.S. President Donald Trump, with the Pentagon taking responsibility for the strike.
For his part, Salih said deep and cordial relations between the two nations were not harmed even under a long war imposed by former dictator Saddam Hussein, adding the two countries still enjoy numerous capacities for the expansion of ties.
The Iraqi president stressed the need to redefine security arrangements in the region and said steering the regional developments towards the establishment of stability and inclusive security would be impossible without the presence of Iran and a powerful and independent Iraq.
He commended Iran’s efforts to preserve Iraq’s territorial integrity in the fight against terrorism, saying the fact that Iran has been a friend of Iraq in hard times will go down the annals of diplomatic relations between the two countries and shape the future of those ties.
Raisi also said insecurity in Afghanistan is rooted in foreign plots, stressing that security must be established only by the regional countries.
"With the reduction of the presence of American forces in Afghanistan, their acts of provocation and sedition will undoubtedly continue in different ways because their interests and existence depend on insecurity,” he told President Asharf Ghani on Thursday.
“The Islamic Republic is ready to use its capacities to establish lasting peace and prevent bloodshed in Afghanistan."
Raisi said, “Afghanistan's security must be provided by the Afghans themselves and Iran is ready to assist and cooperate in this regard so that lasting peace and justice will be established and the people of Afghanistan be freed from suffering."
President Ghani expressed hope for the beginning of a new chapter in Tehran-Kabul relations, saying Afghanistan wishes to expand political and economic ties with Iran in all fields.
Stressing that Tehran enjoys pivotal capacities in creating regional security, the Afghan president said, “Iran has a prominent role in establishing regional stability and [Kabul] intends to use Iran’s capacities for cooperation in that regard. ”
Raisi also said the fate of Yemen has to be decided only by the country’s own people, and not any outside party.
“No one can make decisions for Yemen from outside the country,” he told Muhammad Abdul-Salam, the Yemeni popular Ansarullah movement’s spokesman.
The Iranian president hailed the resistance and steadfastness that the Yemeni people and fighters have been staging in the face of oppressors.
“Today, the identity of the victor of this arena has become clear to the entire international community, even the aggressors,” Raisi said, adding that Yemen has become "the source of pride for the Islamic and Arab world.”
The Iranian president said the entire world is “in awe” of the struggle that the Yemeni people has put up towards guarding their esteem and independence.
“This is a source of pride not only for the Yemeni nation, but also for all of the world’s Muslims and freedom-seeking people."
Abdul-Salam said, “The Yemeni people have opted to follow the line of resistance, and will continue through this path more powerfully than ever.”
Yemen, he said, considers the Islamic Republic on its side, adding the two countries are standing up to the world’s arrogant powers on a common axis.
'Sincere Ties With UAE'
Raesi separately said Iran is determined and open to the expansion of relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), stressing that Tehran sees no boundaries to the promotion of such ties, particularly trade and economic ones.
In a meeting with the special representative of the UAE at his swearing-in, Raisi pointed to the UAE’s serious willingness to deepen and strengthen relations with Iran in various fields.
“A joint mechanism should be created in order to utilize capacities and ways to strengthen relations and cooperation between the two countries in different spheres," the Iranian president said.
Raisi described Iran as a true and sincere friend of the UAE and other regional states.
“We hold a spirit of heartfelt amity towards the Emirati nation. Close relationship between the two governments can pave the way for brotherly relations and close cooperation between the two nations,” he said.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Raisi pointed to Iran’s support for the oppressed Palestinian people, calling it an outstanding example of the Iranian nation’s true friendship.
“Despite all pressures and restrictions, we are fulfilling our religious and humanitarian duties concerning defense of Palestinians. We expect Muslim and Arabs countries to take the lead in this regard as Zionists’ aggression will vanish then,” the Iranian president said.
Raisi also stressed that the future of Yemen must be decided by the Yemenis, saying the common vision of the regional countries on the matter can secure peace and stability in the Middle East and guarantee the interests of regional nations.
European leaders also said they were looking forward to working with the new Iranian administration.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, in separate messages, expressed readiness to expand ties with Tehran.
Officials from Austria, France, Croatia, Serbia and Switzerland had previously congratulated Raisi.
In his meeting with the speaker of the House of Representatives of Belarus, Vladimir Andreichenko, the Iranian president said all capacities should be activated in order to advance bilateral relations between Iran and Belarus.
Sanctions, he said, cannot stop the two countries from expanding friendly ties, adding Washington is mistaken to think it can impede progress of nations.
Andreichenko hailed Raisi’s inauguration address, saying it revealed Iran’s strong desire for development, and that Belarus will stay by Iran’s side on the path.
He said the two nations could elevate the level of their mutual cooperation through further coordination in the face of U.S. sanctions.
Raeisi further highlighted the significant role of mutual cooperation with Russia in countering unilateralism, hoping that the two states would conclude a comprehensive cooperation agreement soon.
Cooperation between Iran and Russia could be an influential and preventive factor in the face of unilateralism, he said in a meeting with chairman of Russia’s State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin.
Raisi also expressed hope that Tehran and Moscow would finalize the comprehensive cooperation agreement in order to maximize their interaction.
“Tehran-Moscow relations must enter a new era and substantial steps must be taken for their development in all fields,” he said.
Raisi said there are no limits to the promotion of relations between Iran and Russia, adding Tehran is resolved to press on with the ‘resistance economy’ policies in order to strengthen perseverance in dealing with the economic shocks caused by the cruel American and European sanctions.
Volodin, for his part, voiced the Russian Duma’s readiness to play a role in the enhancement of ties with Iran, saying he will convey the proposal on the finalization of the comprehensive cooperation deal to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
He said foreign sanctions have been imposed with the purpose of weakening both Russia and Iran, stressing that Moscow and Tehran will stay together to step up interaction and overcome the obstacles.